Saturday, February 27, 2010
Sunday, February 21, 2010
When MM first made their announcement that they’d be releasing SADIST WITH RED TEETH on DVD, there were several cult-film pundits crowing about the utter awfulness of this French vampire opus. And indeed by anyone’s standards of what constitutes a “normal” film, SADIST is mind-bogglingly terrible. Its plot is hopelessly confused, its script sounds made-up on the spot, the performances practically define the description “wooden” and the special effects are totally unrealistic. Your average self-respecting horror fan might look on these meager works and despair. But the open-minded cult film fan, the lover of the eccentric and the bizarre in world cinema will look upon SADIST with nothing but wide-eyed affection. For me it was love at first sight. SADIST is pure weirdo entertainment, more psychedelic than terrifying, mesmerizing in its total commitment to its own oddness.
A man thinks he is becoming a vampire following his release from a hospital. His doctors attempt to continue and foster this belief to further some obscure occult conspiracy. Eventually of course he ends up murdering some people and the police are soon hot on his trail. Except that that in no way sums up what is actually going on in this movie. SADIST is confoundingly weird, separating you from any sensible interpretation of the gothic events unfolding willy-nilly. Grainy stock footage of natural disasters regularly intercedes on the action ostensibly illustrating the main character’s violent state of mind, along with arty polarization effects and random shots of snakes and spiders, but these wayward avant-garde effects do more to interrupt the viewer’s frame of mind than reveal anything of value about the characters. Oddball characters waft in and out of the story with little rhyme and certainly no reason. My advice? Just give up and go with the flow. If you like weird movies, and you probably do, this is seriously one of the weirdest movies I have ever seen. It has a weirdness that is beyond words. SADIST WITH RED TEETH comes with Worldweird Cinema’s highest recommendation possible. If you don’t like this movie, it’s possible that bizarre foreign cult movies are just not for you.
I wish I could say the same about FORBIDDEN PARIS. Oh, it’s pretty weird, and has some wonderfully odd images and moments, but it just barely held my attention throughout. Director Van Belle’s first feature film, it’s a “mondo” style documentary depicting a swath of oddballs and nutjobs in the Paris of the late 60s. It starts off strong with a slow motion shot of a woman walking through the streets in the buff, and then heading into a vignette showing a family of three preparing for a post-nuclear future. But overall there’s a little too much drag in the episodes, with the usual fakirs and animal deaths and whatnot. I am not much of fan of this type of cult movie, and PARIS did not covert me. It does have a great droney pop-jazz score and it looks good, but I doubt I’ll be returning to it anytime soon, unlike SADIST, which is already demanding an encore viewing.
Mondo Macabro’s digital video presentation of each of these rare and almost lost films is nigh perfect. A wee-bit of damage on the negative for SADIST comes through, but otherwise it’s astonishingly beautiful, colorful and sharp. PARIS fares even better, looking as though it could have been filmed last year and not 40 years ago. There’s a great French language documentary about Van Belle, which centers on this enigmatic directors propensity for storytelling and obscuring the truth of his own biography. Liner notes from Christophe Bier, who is also interviewed in the docu, do their best to separate fact from fiction but ends up emphasizing the unknowability of this unique figure in European low budget cinema. JLVB himself does little video introductions to each film, talking a bit about his reasons for casting mega-cutie British actress Jane Clayton in SADIST. Mostly it was because she was mega-cute, and had nothing to do with her acting. Which, after you watch the movie, will make perfect sense. She’s not very good, but she’s totally hot. His intro for PARIS emphasizes the verite of each scene, claiming nothing was staged. I think I may have to call bullshit on that one, but judge for yourself. While we are only two months into 2010, Mondo Macabro has unleashed a likely contender for the best DVD of the year. SADIST is amazing and the extras all worthwhile (even PARIS though I didn’t much care for it). Do yourself a favor and inject some much-needed weirdness into your life with this astonishing double-bill release.
Friday, February 12, 2010
International spy films have often used Istanbul as a stock location to give a feeling of mystery and intrigue. Its unique architecture and deep history lend this easily, and it doesn’t hurt that during the 60s and 70s there was a film industry based there which actively sought out international co-productions. Istanbul was cheap and exotic, two very big plusses when it comes to the b-movie industry. So why wouldn’t the Turks want to take advantage of this themselves and not just leave it to the Italians or the Brits? They did so starting in ‘66 with a series of amiable James Bond knockoffs filmed under the banner ALTIN COCUK. Onar’s latest DVD is a presentation of the first film in that series, and while it probably isn’t going to blow your mind or change your life it is terrific fun nonetheless. Featuring romantic leading man Goksel Arsoy as the Bondish Altin Cocuck (or “Golden Boy”) a super-suave, super-deadly superagent out to protect Turkey from Cold War-era nogoodniks and to get as many lovely and scantily clad Anatolian chicks into bed as possible. There are a lot of double crossings, disguises, torture, gunfights, near-naked girls, underwater hi-jinks and love on the sly as our hero prevents mega-Turk-baddie Altan Gunbay from blowing up all Istanbul in an event which Gunbay predicts will be “more fun than Hiroshima”. One girl is whipped nearly out of her dress and another is strung up while in a bikini and slowly hung as the ice she’s made to stand on melts away under a heat lamp and the diabolical glare of Gunbay. The movie spits out one fast-paced scene after the next in the best Yesilcam cheap-but-entertaining tradition and is never, ever boring. But if you’re looking for the weirdest or wackiest or bloodiest or sexiest Turkish film, this one ain’t it. Not by a long shot. But it’s wild enough and rare enough to hold a bright spot in your heart and your DVD collection if you’re just willing to let it in and do its thing.
More in the movie’s favor than its plot or action are its relatively great cinematic qualities. Director Memduh Un enriches each frame with a wonderfully expressionist, almost noir-ish eye. Dutch angles and moody lighting give it an atmosphere beyond the simple and action and poverty of plot. ALTIN COCUK looks great, better than it should, and is a shining testament to the often unheralded talents that were behind these disposable pop films. The acting isn’t anything that you wouldn’t find in any other Turkish film (or Spanish or Greek or Egyptian for that matter), but the cheap charisma of Goksel Arsoy holds things together nicely for the brief duration of the flick. And of course Altan Gunbay, in one of his earliest roles is typically great as the bald bad-ass out to betray his brethren. But really, it’s the endless parade of beautiful ladies that keeps your attention in scenes not featuring gunfire or torture. Sevda Nur plays the main girl, and while she hasn’t much to do, her dark and ethereal beauty are mesmerizing and after awhile you don’t really remember that she not really all that great as an actor. There’s quite a bit to be excited about in this movie, especially if you enjoy 60s spy flicks. Honestly, it’s never really been my cup of tea, I don’t even care for the Bond movies, but one thing I do like is Turkish pop cinema, in any shape or genre, and so ATLIN COCUK gives me just enough of that thrill that it will keep me coming back as long as it remains in on my DVD shelf.
Onar’s discs just keep getting better. This is one of the best looking yet. On par with many of Something Weird Video’s transfers of American 60s low budgets epics, you get a lovely, clear b&w 4:3 fullscreen image. Considering the sometimes awful state of the prints Onar often has to deal with, ALTIN’s fine presentation is a minor miracle. Extras soar as well. The best is the first ever filmed interview with longtime Turkfilm villain Altan Gunbay. It’s full of great and illuminating info concerning his career and the Turkish film industry in general. On the downside, the video is appallingly edited, with no rhyme or reason to the structure of the interview. Valuable stuff, nonetheless. The usual, terrific and informed bios and filmographies are here as well as some trailers for other Onar things. The exciting bits here concern two mysterious upcoming releases. One is a formerly lost KILINK movie, whose title is still unknown at press time: the scene included is wonderfully sadistic and certainly whets the appetite for more. Perhaps even more mindblowing is RINGO GESTAPO’YA KARSI, a feverish looking adventure pitting cowboys against Nazis in the wilds of Anatolia. I need this one as soon as possible, OK Bill? All in all, another great time provided by Onar Films of Athens, Greece. Fans of 60s international spy films will want to waste no time in picking this one up and the usual Worldweirders, if they don’t already have it, are heartily recommended to pick it up at their earliest convenience.